Thank God the most sophisticated news organization in the world, The New York Times, has a sense of humor: “After Chef’s Hitler Remark, Bankers Change Lunch Plans,” read a Times headline earlier today about celebrity chef and restauranteur Mario Batali comparing Wall Street cats with fascist dictators.
At a Time magazine event promoting their “Person of the Year” issue, Batali was asked what person has had the most influence on the world, for better or worse, during the past year. He reportedly said:
...I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention across the board and everywhere is the entire banking industry and their disregard for the people that they’re supposed to be working for… the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys…They’re not heroes, but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating.”
Apparently the quote really riled some bankers, many of whom are threatening to boycott Batali’s restaurants—among them, the upscale Del Posto, Babbo and Lupa, as well as his grand Italian market, Eataly. The Website Eater reported that one investment bank circulated a memo that it would not reimburse employees for meals at any Batali-owned location.
“The irony is that he has made millions of dollars building a restaurant empire off the backs of Wall Street wealth,” an anonymous source was quoted as saying to The Times.
It’s true that Batali’s restaurants can be exceedingly expensive and are probably popular power lunches for the Wall Street crowd who can afford to dine in them. And nobody likes being compared to Hitler (except for maybe Ahmadinejad) so smartly, Batali apologized. But the incident is yet another example of the countless ways modern culture invokes Hitler, usually without humor, and usually to the utterer’s detriment.